Smart Glass: Types, Cost, Pros and Cons

To cover this interesting topic properly, we will discuss the types of smart glass, what they cost, and the pros and cons of this kind of technology.

It wasn’t long ago when we thought of this type of technology as science fiction. Now, such a window exists and smart glass is becoming more commonly seen around the world.

large windows with city view in background

What is Smart Glass?

Smart glass, also known as switchable glass, is a type of glass that possesses light transmission properties that can be altered by applying light, heat or voltage to it.

The more common types of smart glass make use of a small amount of electricity to transform between transparent and translucent.

Electronically tintable glass when activated will change the tint of the glass by using electricity to control microscopic particles within it. This enables the glass to effectively block out some or all wavelengths of light.

With just the touch of a button or a gesture or flip of a switch or your phone, you can instantly change the tint of smart glass to keep out harsh sunlight as well as outside heat.

Switchable windows are also effective at blocking out infrared and UV rays, thus making your interior safer, cooler and more enjoyable.

Types of Smart Glass

Because of its light blocking abilities and other features, smart glass is usually installed as smart windows or switchable windows in offices, homes and even in cars.

When installed in a building, smart windows make the control of lighting and temperature much easier and effective.

With the power to control the opacity of your windows electronically, privacy and security can also be optimized on demand.

Smart glass comes in a wide variety of forms but what really distinguishes one from the other is the technology used in creating it.

The three most popular switchable glass technologies are suspended-particle, electrochromic, and polymer-dispersed liquid-crystal glass.

The installation of any of these three smart glass types will turn your building into one that can adapt to any climate.

Electrochromic windows

This type of switchable window uses electricity to change the light transmission and heat transference properties of the glass. With this, you’ll have greater control over how much light and heat can get into your building.

A burst of electricity is required before an electrochromic window can change its opacity. But no electricity is needed to maintain the opacity which you have set the window to.

An electrochromic window can become fully and evenly tinted in less than three minutes, regardless of its size. Also, you can still see clearly out of an electrochromic switchable glass even when it is fully tinted.

Suspended-particle windows

Suspended-particle glass, also referred to as SPDs, involves installing a thin film laminate on any glass to turn it into a switchable window. The laminate can also be installed by sandwiching it between two plates of glass or plastic.

This thin film laminate will have suspended within it a liquid with rod-shaped nano-scale particles. In the absence of an electrical charge, these suspended particles will be randomly organized and block out the light.

When electricity is applied to the glass, the suspended particles will immediately align to let light pass through. In this form, the glass will be unable to block light but it will still absorb it to keep out harmful UV rays.

How much voltage is applied to an SPD will influence the alignment of the suspended particles thus giving you the ability to regulate the glass tint and how much light is let in.

So think of the suspended particles as window blinds and electricity as how you control the opening and closing of the blinds.

You can opt for a manual or automatic control to precisely regulate how much light, heat, and glare can come in through an installed SPD smart window.

Polymer-dispersed liquid-crystal glass

Polymer-dispersed liquid-crystal windows, also known as PDLCs, feature dissolved or dispersed liquid crystals in a liquid polymer that has been cured or solidified.

When the polymer is changed from a liquid to solid, the liquid crystals within the solid polymer become incompatible which leads to them forming droplets inside the polymer.

How the polymer was cured will influence the size of the droplets and thus how the smart window operates.

In most cases, the liquid polymer and crystals are sandwiched between two planes of glass.

There’ll also be a tinny layer of clear conductive material which will serve as a capacitor.

When no electricity is applied to the glass, the liquid crystals will be randomly arranged and result in light being unable to pass through the window.

Without an electrical charge, an SPD window will have a “milky white” translucent appearance.

Immediately voltage is applied, the liquid crystals will align to allow light pass through with minimal scattering giving the glass a transparent appearance.

How transparent the glass appears can be controlled by regulating the voltage applied to the glass.

The more voltage that is added, the more the crystals will be aligned resulting in less light scattering and a more transparent window.

How much does smart glass cost?

As you can see, there’s more than one option available when it comes to buying switchable glass.

Pick the right one and it will make a great deal of difference in how you enjoy your office space or home.

With smart windows installed all over your building, you’ll be better able to keep out unwanted glare and solar heat.

It can also help minimize heating and cooling loss. But because of the unique features of switchable glass, they can be quite pricey to purchase and install.

A smart window can cost as much as 50% more than a dumb window. But then again, you are paying for greater quality and more diverse features.

The price of switchable glass will typically vary from manufacturer to manufacturer with some costing anywhere between $50 and $100 per square foot, and others costing as much as $199 or higher for a full-size sheet of 3.28 by 3.28 feet.

But think of it this way, with smart windows, you’ll never again have to spend another penny on blinds. It can also save up to 20% on your monthly energy bills.

Get a Wi-Fi-connected smart glass with environmental sensors and you’ll get a smart window that can read the weather, room occupancy, and sunlight and use that information to adjust itself to allow in more or less solar heat and light when needed. It’s a great investment.

Pros and Cons

The transparency or translucency of a smart or switchable window is typically controlled with the help of a switch or button.

Some even come with apps that allow you to control the smart window from anywhere with a phone or other smart device.

The ability to regulate the tint on smart glass and how much heat and light it lets in is thanks to the technology integrated into it, be it an electrochromic, thermochromic, suspended particle, or liquid crystal technology.

Because of their cost, mostly large offices and big businesses install smart glass.

Homeowners that appreciate the technology and can afford it also install it. But the application of smart glass isn’t limited to buildings as certain car manufacturers have started adding them to vehicles as windows and sunroofs.

Good news is, with more companies manufacturing smart glass and better ways been discovered to create it, the price of smart glass is gradually falling.

In due time, smart glass will no longer be simply thought of as a luxury item but as something anyone can afford.

Also, thanks to the innovation of self-adhesive switchable glass, there is now the cost-effective option of upgrading the windows you already have installed with smart glass technology.

This means you don’t have to replace your current windows. All you need to do is add the self-adhesive switchable glass to them like a sticker and voila, you’ve turned your regular windows into fully functional smart windows.

To help you decide if smart glass is for you, let’s take a look at some pros and cons of this innovative technology.

  • Easy use and maintenance: With smart windows, you don’t have to worry about pulling blinds or curtains. With the push of a button, you can get all the privacy or natural light you need. Also, since there’s no need for blinds or curtains, you don’t have to worry about the effort and cost of cleaning and replacing them. Simply put, with switchable glass, there’s a lot less cleaning and maintenance involved.
  • Saves money on cooling and heating: Unlike regular windows that let in sunlight and all the heat that comes with it, smart windows let in the light but greatly minimizes the heat. This leaves you with a cool interior that you’ll spend less running the air-conditioning to keep cool.
  • Blocks UV rays: UV rays in moderation can actually be good. Too much of it though can be harmful to both your health and your property. Installing smart windows will keep out the harmful UV rays that bleach your furniture and do you harm while still allowing you to enjoy brilliant natural lighting within your building. You can enjoy a smart window’s UV blocking benefits regardless of if the smart window is in a translucent or transparent state.
  • Quick and precise control of light: Unlike regular windows that offer very little control over how much natural light you can let in, switchable windows give you perfect control. It’s almost like having your own dimmer switch for the sun.
  • High durability: Smart glass is built to last which means you can enjoy it for decades without any worries. Also, because the window has no moving parts, breaks or parts wearing out are less likely.
  • Increased privacy: You can enjoy greater privacy within your building without losing your view.

If you need one more reason why smart windows make for a great investment, it’s that they look good. They’ll give your building a more modern aesthetic which is very satisfying.

The only downside of smart glass is that at the moment, they are still quite pricey, especially if buying a lot for a large project.

Fortunately, you can cut costs and still enjoy many of the benefits of smart glass by opting for self-adhesive switchable glass.


As smart glass becomes more common in the marketplace, prices will become more competitive.

It’s cleaner, more efficient and better to look at than blinds or shades. However, curtains or drapes helps to insulate your window area from the cold.

So, it may be something that could be a new standard one day in all homes and businesses.

Do you prefer this way to create privacy with your windows, or do you prefer sticking to blinds and shades?

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